To’ak chocolate - and why it makes the perfect high-end and sustainable Christmas gift

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Probably the most expensive chocolate in the world? Pic: To’ak Chocolate
Probably the most expensive chocolate in the world? Pic: To’ak Chocolate

Related tags Premium chocolate Chocolate Cocoa Sustainability

To’ak Chocolate routinely charges over $300 for a single bar of chocolate, which is claimed to be the most expensive chocolate in the world. The brand justifies its price because it is responsibly sourced from a cacao variety, Ancient Nacional, native to Ecuador, that many experts believed to be extinct as recently as 2009. The company started from a rainforest conservation project and works exclusively with local farmers.

We are reimagining what is possible with craft chocolate through aging, art, culture, and responsible sourcing. We established the world’s first long-term chocolate aging programme, our most revered editions have been cask-aged for up to six years, and we take pride in our exquisite packing and design. Because of this, we have extremely limited production runs​,” the company said.

Ancient Nacional cacao

Ecuador’s legendary cacao variety, Ancient Nacional, was believed to be extinct, but in 2013, To’ak discovered a valley where some of these trees still survived. DNA tests have confirmed them to be 100% pure Nacional, which geneticists call Ancient Nacional.

They have since been officially designated Heirloom by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. To’ak said it is now leading the movement to preserve Ancient Nacional cacao and bring it back from the brink of extinction and is exclusively producing single-origin, single-harvest artisan chocolate aimed at expressing the unique terroir in which it is grown - the valley of Piedra de Plata in Ecuador.

The brand was founded in 2013 by Jerry Toth, also the co-founder of the Third Millennium Alliance (TMA), a conservation nonprofit organisation, and Carl Schweizer, an Austrian colleague, along with Dennise Valencia, a native of Quito, to make To’ak, which comes from two Indigenous Ecuadorean languages meaning earth and tree.

To’ak chocolate – ‘Conservation is at the heart of every bar’

Toak Team_Quito_2018_-_990px_1024x1024
The team behind To’ak. Pic: To’ak Chocolate
  • To’ak chocolate is sourced exclusively from cacao pods that match the morphological and colour profile of heirloom Nacional cacao referenced from DNA testing. Its cacao was awarded the Heirloom designation from the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund.
  • As tree-to-bar chocolate makers, To’ak draws heavily from the techniques and tradition of winemakers and whiskey distilleries. As with wine, the flavor characteristics of dark chocolate vary according to the soil and climate in which the cacao is grown. To’ak makes its chocolate to express each specific year's land and weather idiosyncrasies.
  • In the middle of each To’ak chocolate bar is a single-roasted cacao bean, which co-founders Carl and Jerry hand-select themselves. They recognize there is a tendency to forget that chocolate is ultimately derived from the fruit of a tree. We wish to share with connoisseurs the opportunity to taste the trustworthy source of chocolate and its most fundamental element - the cacao bean itself.
  • To’ak’s chocolate is responsibly crafted
  • To’ak works hand-in-hand with a small group of cacao growers in Piedra de Plata and pays them the highest price per pound in Ecuador.
  • All wood used in To'ak's packaging is directly replenished through the planting of native hardwood trees by the entire To’ak team in partnership with the Ecuador-based rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance (TMA).
  • To’ak also donates 1% of its sales to TMA as part of the global philanthropy movement, 1% for the Planet. To’ak said it is working with local farmers, conservationists, and multiple universities to protect the world's oldest and rarest variety of cacao and nurse it back from the brink of extinction. You can read more on To’ak’s social and environmental impact here.
  • To’ak is working with a coalition of local cacao growers, conservationists, and international universities to save Ecuador’s historic Ancient Nacional cacao from the brink of extinction. Cuttings from DNA-verified 100% pure Nacional trees have been grafted onto seedlings and planted in a protected plot of land in the nearby Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, managed by the rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance.

According to an article on, To’ak said it pays at least three times the standard market rate for hybrid Nacional cacao, and TMA pays additional bridge payments of around $1,821 per acre over five years to farmers who agree to grow ancient Nacional and hybrid Nacional cacao, which produces less expensive but still-exalted chocolate.

 “In turn, To’ak has become famous for producing some of the most expensive chocolate on the market, in one case $490 for a single 1.76-ounce bar. That big-ticket bar and other confections of Nacional are available online at To’ak’s website and through specialty retailers like Harrods and Caputo’s​.”

The brand’s secret in producing great-tasting, premium chocolate comes from pioneering the art and science of aging chocolate in cognac and whiskey casks. “We also age our artisan chocolate in certain types of Ecuadorian wood and other aging containers that are carefully selected for their extractable aroma compounds​,” the company told ConfectioneryNews.

To’ak luxury chocolate is available in four collections, each carrying multiple editions, including Aged and Harvest, and a mini-tasting guide accompanies its Signature collection.

Its Origin collection features original and award-winning packaging, with each bar presented in a handcrafted wooden box. It includes a tasting utensil, an illustrated booklet telling the story behind the edition, and a guide to tasting and pairing luxury dark chocolate.

Related topics Ecuador